Republicans chose Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson to give the rebuttal to Governor Roy Cooper’s State of the State address. Since the response is usually given by a member of the legislature, Robinson’s speech is an acknowledgement that he’s the front runner for the GOP nomination for governor and that he has the support of the establishment. He also gave us a glimpse at the new Mark Robinson.
I didn’t watch the speech. I don’t have much use listening to a guy like that. But I did see a quote from the speech on Twitter posted by the John Locke Foundation’s newsletter, the Carolina Journal. “We must drop our weapon of political war,” they quoted Robinson. “We must come together to work on real solutions to the real problems we face.”
I almost fell out of my chair laughing. The guy who built and nurtured a reputation for being insulting and outrageous now wants us to cool the political rhetoric and unite behind him. He’s spent three years telling us exactly who he is and now he wants us to believe that he’s somebody else? That’s not going to work very well.
Robinson is one of the most divisive statewide politicians in recent North Carolina history. He’s attacked the LGBT+ community with fervor and glee, diminishing them as “filth.” He’s demeaned women as being unfit to lead. He’s staked out the most extreme positions of an already extremist Republican Party and now he wants us to believe he’s a moderate uniter.
Robinson might be able to convince the GOP base that he’s somebody he’s not. They like people who lie to them. They want people to tell them what to believe because they lack the critical thinking skills to make decisions on their own. These are the people who simultaneously praised Trump for getting a vaccine for COVID while also believing that the pandemic was a liberal hoax. They are, as Lincoln described them, the people who can be fooled all of the time.
He appears to have won over a GOP establishment that knows exactly who he is, even if they deny it publicly. They’ve become part of the machinery that lies to the GOP base with impunity. They know that Robinson’s positions, rhetoric, and demeanor are closer to Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Madison Cawthorn than Ronald Reagan or Jim Martin, but they’ll pretend otherwise, because good government and sound judgement don’t matter to them. Winning and tax cuts is all that they care about. They’ll also vote for him so they can say, “See, we’re not racist. We voted for the Black guy.” They lack the self-awareness to see how racist that is.
But Robinson is not going to fool the middle and he’s going to scare the Democratic base into the polls. His divisive, demeaning rhetoric will drive a wedge between moderate swing voters and the GOP. His positions on abortions and women will give Democratic organizers a rallying cry to motivate younger voters. Robinson may peel off a few more African American voters than the average Republican, but he’s not winning anything close to a majority because he doesn’t share their basic understanding of inclusion and acceptance, core values that have driven African Americans since the beginning of this nation. The young people and moderates he drives out to vote against his extremism will make up for any losses among African American voters.
Robinson spent three years building a brand. He’s been the most extreme Republican in the room and on the ballot. He belittles and demeans his perceived enemies, dividing every argument into “us” and “them.” He’s made sure we know who he is and he’s done it unapologetically. He’s also done it all on tape, over and over again.
Now, he suddenly wants to unite us, to bring us together. It’s hilarious. Voters won’t see a change of heart. They’ll see a fraud and charlatan, another politician who will say whatever is convenient to get elected. Either what he told us about himself is true or it’s not. Mark Robinson can run, but he can’t hide.
Robinson makes his predecessor Dan Forest look like a moderate and Forest was too extreme for North Carolina. He sees himself as a Black Donald Trump, but he’s more Madison Cawthorn than Trump. He’s the foil that Democrats need on the ballot and the fool that Republicans deserve.